Chapter

Could Man Be an Irrational Animal?

Stephen Stich

in Collected Papers, Volume 2

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199733477
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949823 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199733477.003.0003
Could Man Be an Irrational Animal?

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Aristotle thought man was a rational animal. From his time to ours, however, there has been a steady stream of writers who have dissented from this sanguine assessment. Recently, however, there have been rumblings of a reaction brewing—a resurgence of Aristotelian optimism. Those defending the sullied name of human reason have been philosophers, and their weapons have been conceptual analysis and epistemological argument. The central thrust of their defense is the claim that empirical evidence could not possibly support the conclusion that people are systematically irrational. And thus the experiments which allegedly show that they are must be either flawed or misinterpreted. This chapter takes a critical look at these philosophical defenses of rationality. The central thesis is that the philosophical arguments aimed at showing irrationality cannot be experimentally demonstrated are mistaken. Before considering these arguments, this chapter sets out a few illustrations of the sort of empirical studies which allegedly show that people depart from normative standards of rationality in systematic ways.

Keywords: Aristotle; human reason; rationality; philosophical defense; irrationality

Chapter.  8620 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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